NYSUT is deepening its commitment to the social justice movement by raising awareness, providing practical resources and offering avenues of action for union members who want to help.
"It's our history. It's who we are," said NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, who oversees the union's social justice activities.
Students are embracing causes as teachers incorporate social justice issues into lesson plans, and community service becomes a part of daily classroom learning.
NYSUT, in response to members' requests to provide information, has created a school-year calendar of social justice events and resources so educators can plan ahead.
"We're focusing on students and engaging them through the curriculum so they can become true critical thinkers and be a civic voice," said Cutler.
A statewide advisory group has been formed to outline strategies the union can take to further education about women's issues, including domestic violence.
NYSUT has been a strong advocate for anti-bullying laws, has hosted a conference on the issue and provides ongoing training for members. The union also supports day-long summer youth golf programs in cities such as Albany, Schenectady and Troy that promote characterbuilding and sportsmanship. The union creates free posters — starting with Hispanic Heritage month in September — that celebrate our country's diverse heritage and cultures.
NYSUT's social justice efforts are coordinated with local action as well: members in Buffalo created a Human Rights Institute and Genocide Studies program, which provides a two-week intensive summer study for students on the Power of One.
North Country educators and students started an annual, international conference on global warming, working with The Wild Center Natural History Museum in Tupper Lake. Union members on Long Island, working with Hofstra University's Center for Suburban Diversity, are creating programs to promote cultural understanding as people from Central and South America continue to emigrate to Long Island.
Members of United University Professions at SUNY Geneseo created a Gold Standard program where students meet regularly throughout the year for social justice initiatives. Professional Staff Congress members at CUNY have been out front in supporting the Dream Act to provide educational opportunities for immigrants.
Below is a sampling of causes from the NYSUT Social Justice calender. For a complete list, visit http://www.nysut.org/; under "Resources" click on Social Justice & Labor Center. Topics are relevant for language studies, art, English Language Arts, science, government and citizenship, history and social studies. More information can be found in Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice Teachers at http://www.justiceplanbooks.com/.
• Hispanic Heritage Month — See related page for NYSUT's free poster. Check out http://www.tolerance.org/, "Latino Heritage" for lessons.
• Kickoff for the second annual Speak Truth to Power student video contest. Information is on NYSUT's social justice and labor page on www.nysut.org/labor.htm or go to http://www.speaktruthvideo.com/.
• Sept. 9-15 — Suicide Prevention week. Info on "Out of the Darkness" walks sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at http://www.afsp.org/.
• Sept. 21 — International Day of Peace. Visit http://www.teachpeace.com/.
• Oct. 11 — National Coming Out Day. Find lesson plans, books, films and poetry at http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/.
• Italian Heritage Month — See related page for events and information.
• Oct. 16 — World Food Day. Check out http://www.worldhunger.org/ for resources and fact sheets. Information about good, safe food can be found at http://www.foodfirst.org/.
• Domestic Violence Awareness Month — To find shelters, visit http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/. Emergency Hotlines: National: 800-799-7233 (SAFE); New York state: 800-942-6906; Spanish: 800-942-6908.
• NYSUT's advisory group on women's issues is developing talking points to direct to legislative candidates.What can you do? Go to http://www.nysut.org/; http://www.aft.org/; http://www.nea.org/ or http://www.futures/withoutviolence.org.
• Nov. 8 — Annual Celebration of Suburban Diversity on Long Island.
• Nov. 11 — Veterans Day. Learn how to organize "Take a Veteran to School" events at www.history.com/veterans.
• Nov. 25 — International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. This United Nations-led effort provides people with the opportunity to take a pledge. For more info, http://www.nysut.org/.
• Nov. 26 — Buy Nothing Day. At http://www.tolerance.org/ explore lesson plans, including "Reading ads through a social justice lens."
• Dec. 1 — World Aids Day. In 2010, 334 million people had HIV/AIDS; http://www.avert.org/ provides education and awareness.
• Dec. 6 — White Ribbon Day. Men show their commitment to stand against violence against women.
• Dec. 10 — Human Rights Day. The RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, http://www.rfk.org/, highlights the work of international human rights activists and, in conjunction with NYSUT, has created lesson plans. Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/, is a watchdog organization committed to protecting human rights.
• Dec. 18 — International Migrants Day, established by the UN. The International Organization for Migration site, http://www.ion.int/, contains information about migrants, their economic impact and justice issues.
• Jan. 21 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Americans come together on the MLK Day of Service to serve their communities. Visit mlkday.gov. Visit the AFL-CIO's site for info about the union's MLK conference and service: www.aflcio.org/Issues/Civil-and-Workplace-Rights/Annual-King-Day-Observance.
• Social justice in schools. Restorative Justice focuses on opportunities to build bridges and perform community service. Find info at http://www.restorativejustice.org/.
• Jan. 31 — Deadline for Speak Truth To Power student video contest.
• African-American Heritage Month — NYSUT members can order free copies of the 2012 poster, featuring A. Phillip Randolph, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch http://www.nysut.org/ for NYSUT's 2013 poster.
• Feb. 14 — For Valentine's Day, teach students about child labor in the chocolate industry and sweatshops in the flower industry. Visit http://www.laborrights.org/.
• March 8 — International Women's Day. News and opportunities for activism are offered by the Coalition for Labor Union Women. Visit http://www.cluw.org/.
• March 31 — Cesar Chavez Day and founding of United Farm Workers Union. To order a free, short film and teacher's guide, go to www.tolerance.org/kit/viva-la-causa.
• Women's History Month — Order free posters from NYSUT at email@example.com. Visit http://www.now.org/, the National Association of Women, or http://www.nwhp.org/, National Women's History Project.
• April 13 — National Libraries Day. Visit www.ala.org/aasl for more information from the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians.
• April 28 — Workers Memorial Day. Events at NYSUT headquarters and around the state through Central Area Labor Councils and local unions. Also known as International Workers Memorial Day, it is an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.
• Caribbean Heritage Month — Visit http://teachingforchange.org/ for resources, such as Caribbean Connections: The Dominican Republic.
• Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month — Visit http://asianpacificheritage.gov/ for resources.
• May 3 — World Press Freedom Day. According to Reporters Without Borders, 66 journalists were killed in the line of duty last year. For more, visit http://www.rsf.org/.
• May 18 — World Fair Trade Day promotes the fair trade market and values the people who make the food we eat and the goods we use. Visit http://www.fairtraderesource.org/.
• May 28 — Anniversary of the founding of Sierra Club, http://www.sierraclub.org/, the nation's oldest and largest environmental organization.
• Prepare nominations for the $10,000 Edna Award, honoring a woman 35 years old or younger whose leadership has fueled social change. The Berger-Marks Foundation supports women who organize unions and encourage young women's work in the social justice movement. Visit http://www.bergermarks.org/ for more information.
• June 12 — World Day Against Child Labor. Campaign information and resources available at http://www.laborrights.org/.